Posted by Latuff | 26.08.2003 17:31 | Indymedia
Brazilian political cartoonist Latuff doesn’t drink anything stronger than coffee, but he’s accompanied me through saideira and caideira, on nights of cerveja e cachaça, from the butecos of São Paulo to the smoke filled bars of Rio de Janeiro (which also indicates his generous tolerance of difference in others). Beyond being editorial cartoonist-in-residence at Narco News, Latuff is my pal.
Some folks from New York City Indymedia are my pals, too. When I won the Drug War on Trial case in 2001, I found myself in the Chapare region of Bolivia, investigating the assassination of a union leader. With little time at that moment to deal with the ensuing press stampede, I gave NY Indymedia the exclusive interview, and told the Commercial Press to get its quotes from there.
Hey, that was about free speech and press freedom, too! Right?
So, imagine my chagrin and lament to learn that Indymedia New York has “hidden” the latest cartoon by Latuff, and struck all reference to it from page one.
This seems to me to be an excellent jumping off point for a discussion of how and how not to censor. What bugs me about this recent incident is that I can’t for the life of me find anything approaching “full disclosure” on the Indymedia NYC site that would provide accountability as to who, exactly, made the decision to “hide” Latuff’s cartoon, or on what criteria it was done. Anonymous censors especially bug me.
The only explanation of “policy” on NY Indymedia that I can find (am I missing something here?) says:
After stories have been published, they can be edited, linked or even deleted by the collective running this site, using the story administration page (password required). . We have a lot of respect for people publishing on our site, so we generally only use these features to fix obvious mistakes, such as typos in a web address; or a duplicate copy of a story. Very rarely, someone abuses our trust, and posts a story that is way outside what the website is set up to do, and we may remove it. We are working on the technology to make this process more transparent, so that you can see when such decisions have been made, and why. In future, we want our audience to be part of this process too.
If this one Indymedia collective hasn’t defined, openly, what constitutes its “trust,” or what “is way outside what the website is set up to do,” it has set up a vague rule, subject to the arbitrary whims and prejudices of its anonymous executioners of Speech, who, after all, are mere human individuals, every one, hiding behind the word “collective” to skew (and inadvertently wreck) the results of the “open publishing” experiment that all Indymedia supposedly embrace by definition.
The thing that also bugs me is how the dominant ideologues of the blogosphere then use the (bad) decision by one collective out of a hundred-and-something local Indymedia organizations to (disingenuously) smear the entire Indymedia movement, to which both Latuff and I have long been allied.
For a glimpse of how crazy and knee-jerk Blogolandia can get, here’s an otherwise sane posting that decries the “hiding” of pro-Israel posts on NY Indymedia but at the same time states: “To their credit, the moderators also hid some posts by anti-semite Latuff, and with good reason.”
First rule: If you wave around big words like “anti-Semite” you should always be called upon to explain what, precisely, constituted “anti-Semitic” in the speech you don't like.
Double Heh, and a somewhat bigger victory: Is it “anti-Semitic” to fail to capitalize Semite? Oooooh. Gotcha!
See how silly it gets, kids? Identity politics, from Left to Right, is more concerned about words (and images) than deeds. How shallow is that?
Still, I feel more disappointed in whatever anonymous Star Chamber members at NYC’s Indymedia collective were responsible for the boneheaded maneuvers that led to this mess. If any member of the NYC Indymedia collective wants to come out from behind the pixel curtain by name, I have some interview questions for ya.
Meanwhile, Latuff (who haveth the dignity to identify thine self), whadaya say we shake the paperweight and see where the snow comes down?
Sunlight. Best. Disinfectant. Yada yada yada.
Al Giordano: Hey Latuff, you troublemaker! I see that NYC Indymedia has "hidden" your latest cartoon (that portrays an occupied-zone Israeli bus as a coffin). Worse, I don't see any explanation as to why that cartoon supposedly doesn't meet standards at an "open publishing" site. I see they've also "hidden" postings of a pro-Israel nature, too. What's going on?
Latuff: IMC NYC published in front page links for two of my posts regarding the blackout and now my Israeli bus cartoon was hidden by them: and not a single explanation about it. But obviously I know the answer. Guess what? It's anti-Semitic! Yes, yes, my good Giordano. Here we go again with just another stupid episode of “cry wolf.”
Al Giordano: In my view, your work has long been one of the most compelling reasons to read various Indymedia sites. In between the flotsam and jetsam of a lot of activist rants and debates, it always seemed to me that the original, quality, political cartooning by Latuff served as a model of what Indymedia ought to be: a place where censored journalists could publish. But you've been censored or "hidden" by other Indymedia sites before (I remember a particular controversy at the Swiss IMC site some time back). What other Indymedia sites, if any, have censored or "hidden" your work?
Latuff: I believe most of IMCs are doing the right thing. I support the efforts of Independent Media Center but, you know, it's not the fault of all IMCs if some assholes are working as censors. Every IMC has its own characteristics. The Israeli bus artwork was not censored on different IMCs including Israel, UK, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Belgium, Sidney, Brazil, Global, Uruguay, Japan, Vancouver and it was also published on the website of Israeli peace group Gush-Shalom, where I’ve contributed with cartoons since 1998. It was specifically an action of censorship from IMC NYC. Shame on them! Not a big deal at all. Since I decided to take the side of Palestinians, I deal with censorship, hacker attacks, and defamation campaigns, even from so-called progressives. My posts will be hidden on spot at IMCs Germany, Switzerland and Austria, all because most of them believe I am a rabid anti-Semitic. But I have very good friends in some IMCs like Palestine and San Francisco.
Al Giordano: Let's talk about the controversial cartoon. I can't for the life of me figure out what is supposedly anti-Semitic about this cartoon. Seems to me that this cartoon speaks an undeniable reality: that the buses inside the Israeli-occupied zones often result to be coffins, as a result of bombings. To me, that cartoon is as accurate as a news photo, in some ways more accurate. There's nothing in the cartoon that cheers the idea of bombings. It simply addresses their root cause: the occupation of Palestinian lands. It's a cartoon that makes me think. I presume it therefore makes others think. And that is always good, in my book. Has anybody offered a coherent argument as to why that cartoon is somehow not publishable at NYC Indymedia?
Latuff: Not 'til now. I tried to express in this cartoon that due occupation of Palestinian territories, the security wall, the settlements and shit, to take a bus in IsraHell can be deadly. That's all. But you know, my slanderers will always try to find a reason for bashing me. If I make a cartoon with a baker putting breads in an oven, people will call me anti-Semitic because Jews were thrown into ovens and such. Everything can be a good excuse.
Al Giordano: I have a theory: that NYC Indymedia, taking heat already for "hiding" pro-Israeli commentaries, decided to "hide" your post so as to be able to claim that it is an equal opportunity censor. (This is something akin to why "human rights" groups focusing on Latin America reach too far sometimes to whack Cuba or Venezuela, in order to "position" themselves as somehow non-partisan, when, after all, human rights is and should be partisan by nature!) This has long been a game of the feeble-minded censors of Left, Right, and Middle: to say "well, we're censoring both sides, so at least we're fair." But my view is that what happens is that such "policies" always fall hardest on those of us who truly do have radical things to say. Was NYC Indymedia's first mistake to censor the rightwing? Did they thus set in motion a situation that led to your cartoon being taken off the front page?
Latuff: I like this "censoring both sides is fair". It reminds me of the usual the mainstream references to the Middle East conflict that consider that "both sides are guilty." Probably Palestinian civilians are guilty for being on the way of bullets and missiles. Why don't they simply move their bodies away from machine gun fire, huh? Giordano, unfortunately many Leftists are confused when dealing with IsraHell/Palestine issues, afraid to be labeled as anti-Semitic, particularly activists from the United States and Europe. That's why they try to please Zionists and anti-Zionists from time to time. Poor guys! I wouldn't like to be in their position. They can't tell the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. I suggest they take a trip to West Bank, like I did in 1999, to look at the real thing.
Al Giordano: Finally, the neo-con bloggers out there are having a field day with this latest faux pas by NYC Indymedia. Aren't they just playing into the hands of their critics with this silly censorious behavior?
Latuff: Funny to see that conservative Dick-Cheney-heads are smiling wide thanks to IMC NYC. Sometimes it seems that the duty of Left is make right-wingers happy. To be honest Giordano, I don't give a fuck if IMC NYC is censoring me. It's not the first time, and will be not the last. When I started to support the Palestinians and their struggle for independence, I knew that I would to face some trouble, but not such an amount of trouble coming from Right AND Left. No sweat, man! I'm not a Palestinian supporter for fun. I'll keep devoting part of my time, art and efforts to promote Palestinian human rights, and the Internet is the jungle for the media Vietcong. They can censor me here and there, but I will always find a place to show my cartoons. There will be always decent people willing to reproduce and distribute them. My art, while they try to suppress it, is being reproduced, worldwide, by individuals, groups, magazines, and newspapers. And they can't do anything about it. That's why they feel so angry towards me. My art is a living entity and will be alive even after my death.
My final message to those neo-cons is: keep trying, boys! Hehehehehehehehehe!!!
Best regards from your Brazilian brother-in-arts,
Latuff - Image Maker
Rio de Janeiro